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N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality Fights EPA Clean Power Plan

North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality is one plaintiff in a 24-state lawsuit opposing the federal government and the implementation of the EPA's Clean Power Plan. Photo credit: Matthew Connors/Morguefile.
North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality is one plaintiff in a 24-state lawsuit opposing the federal government and the implementation of the EPA's Clean Power Plan. Photo credit: Matthew Connors/Morguefile.
October 27, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. – The state agency charged with protecting North Carolina's environmental quality is a plaintiff in a multi-state lawsuit against the federal government to halt the Clean Power Plan – which requires states to reduce emissions by 32 percent by 2030.

With 24 states represented in the lawsuit, North Carolina is the only state where an environmental regulatory agency is directly involved. Kelly Martin, senior campaign representative with the Beyond Coal Campaign, says that's an important distinction.

"This isn't the state's Attorney General joining with the lawsuit," she says. "This is the Department of Environmental Quality seemingly acting on their own. It does seem that we are sliding on the important protection for our water and our air and our climate."

State Attorney General Roy Cooper issued a letter to the General Assembly earlier this year, expressing concern over such a lawsuit. North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality says the state has already made "great strides" in improving air quality, and the agency is concerned about rate hikes for consumers.

According to the Department of Environmental Quality, North Carolina has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent since 2005, and is on track to meet the president's goal of a 30 percent reduction by 2030.

Agency spokesperson Stephanie Hawco says the state is doing well on its own, and since the EPA requires a reduction by 2012 standards it's an unfair and costly requirement.

"North Carolina is essentially getting no credit for the tremendous improvements it has made in air quality on its own," says Hawco. "Essentially what we're being asked to do is make a Prius more efficient while our neighbors are driving 1972 Cadillacs."

Martin acknowledges the progress the state has made in energy efficiency and cleaner air, but says the Clean Power Plan ensures those efforts will continue to impact the health of citizens and the economy.

"In North Carolina we have been a leader on clean energy, especially in building and using solar power," she says. "That's been a great way to create jobs and have cleaner sources of energy, but the Department of Environmental Quality has chosen to try to block these economy-boosting and life-saving safeguards."

Stephanie Carson/Tommy Hough, Public News Service - NC